- Historic Sites
The Day The Civil War Ended
Gettysburg, Fifty Years After
June/July 1978 | Volume 29, Issue 4
“I’m a-fightin’ and a-yellin’ at the top of my lungs, when his bullet come along an’ catches me right in my mouth. But what with yellin’ my mouth is wide open, so it misses my teeth an’ comes outta my cheek. An’ when it heals, it don’t close up tight. There is still a little hole there. If I don’t plug it with my finger I don’t get no draft on my smoke.” He took a deep puff and with lips tightly pursed blew smoke out through his cheek.
Mr. Myers’ other memorable picture came once when he was making the favorite shot—a Yank and a Reb standing with arms intertwined. (“I must have made a thousand exposures of it.”) A tall, stately Confederate with a great shock of wintry hair called two Union veterans to his side, placed his arms on their shoulders, and demanded a photograph. The photographer remarked that the big campaign hats shaded their faces and suggested that they take off their hats. The men complied, and the Reb ran his fingers through his hair.
“Son,” he said to the camerman with a courtly bow, “fifty years ago it was the blue and gray. Now it’s all gray.”
Unfortunately, almost all the pictures this photographer made have disappeared in the years since thé reunion. (The pictures we reproduce here were taken by his competitors.) Although relations between former foes were harmonious, serious arguments did develop here and there.
“One of the more serious ones took place in a restaurant near the Jennie Wade House,” wrote Mr. Myers. “After violent words had been exchanged across the table, a Reb and a Yank had at each other, not with bayonets this time, but with forks. Unscathed in the melee of 1863, one of them—and I never learned whether North or South—was almost fatally wounded in 1913 with table hardware!”
Incidentally, Mr. Myers had feared that a good many of the old veterans would die during the encampment. The Army Quartermaster Corps apparently felt the same way, for it was reported to have stockpiled a considerable number of coffins. Fortunately, hardly any of these were needed. Old soldiers apparently are a tough breed.
…and we come at last to the afternoon of July 3, and the great re-enactment of Pickett’s charge, with thousands on thousands of spectators gathered all about, Union veterans on Cemetery Ridge, Southern veterans on Seminary Ridge to the west. Out of the woods came the Southerners, just as beforewell, in some ways just as before. They came out more slowly this time, and Mr. Myers saw a dramatic difference: “We could see, not rifles and bayonets, but canes and crutches. We soon could distinguish the more agile ones aiding those less able to maintain their places in the ranks.”
Nearer they came, until finally they raised that frightening falsetto scream. “As the Rebel yell broke out after a half century of silence, a moan, a gigantic sigh, a gasp of unbelief, rose from the onlookers.”
So “Pickett’s men” came on, getting close at last, throwing that defiant yell up at the stone wall and the clump of trees and the ghosts of the past.
“It was then,” wrote Mr. Myers, “that the Yankees, unable to restrain themselves longer, burst from behind the stone wall, and flung themselves upon their former enemies. The emotion of the moment was so contagious that there was scarcely a dry eye in the huge throng. Now they fell upon each other—not in mortal combat, but re-united in brotherly love and affection.”
The Civil War was over.